White Cabanita Corn

Ark of taste
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Cabanita white corn is cultivated in the Colca Valley, in southern Peru. This product has long and thin kernels and a conically shaped cob. This variety is the most cultivated in the area due to the fact that it is the most sought after, commercially. It is used to prepare chochoca (cooked corn which is then dried and ground), and for soups, while the flour made from this corn is used to prepare mazamorras (a kind of corn mush used as a main or side dish) and maiz pelado (for which the kernels are cooked and then separated), and both of these dishes can be used to prepare soups while traditional cancha is made with the corn when it is toasted in a skillet.

This product’s life cycle lasts nine months: it is planted in August, during a festival that takes place in its honor, known as solay. The fields are plowed with a pair of oxen led by children, while those who plant the seeds follow. After this day of work there is a large dinner prepared, during which chicha (a corn-based drink) is consumed; the party is a relaxed moment, with songs and sharing between the workers and owners of the farms; they all thank God and celebrate the Hualca Hualca glacier which will allow the soil to be irrigated.

This corn is still used to barter today, traded with charqui (dried alpaca jerky), chuno (dehydrated potatoes), and olluco (an elongated tuber). Before being sold the cobs are shelled and the kernels are divided into those of the highest quality (the biggest), second best (medium-sized), and third rate (small kernels). This corn has two interesting characteristics: the cultivations are rotated (the seeds that come from higher altitudes will be planted in lower altitudes and vice versa), and the tendency to mix white or yellow corn, in a greater quantity, with the red variety or with cheqche, to give a pleasant visual aspect to the product.

This corn’s origins go back to the Incan period. What’s more, the production of this kind of corn is tied to various festivals, and cultural and agricultural traditions. The inhabitants of Cabanaconde hold that those who don’t cultivate this corn cannot consider themselves a native.

This historic production area is the Cabanaconde region. Roughly 50% of all cabanita corn is of the white variety. In the 720 cultivated ha, roughly 2,160 tons of corn are produced in total, and thus the quantity of the white corn is about 1,000 tons per year, which is sold in the local markets. It is at risk of disappearing for two reasons: the commercial preference for other varieties of corn, along with a concentrated distribution in very few intermediaries, and the negative effects of climate change.

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Cereals and flours

Nominated by:Giacomo Stefano Bassilio Elliott